Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Dont drink the radioactive tea.

For the past few years Michel has been an avid consumer of Japanese green tea.  He’s spent countless hours at the computer doing research on the widely-known health benefits (weight loss, antioxidants, etc.) and making contact with tea farmers in and around Kyoto.  In the process, he has also invested in some very special teaware made by famous Japanese artisans and a seriously upscale (four-figure) tea kettle made by an artist designated a National Treasure, a distinction awarded to outstanding craftspeople by the Japanese government.  We’ve also scoured local art shows/fairs for ceramic teaware.  When he can’t find what he’s looking for, Michel will make a drawing and commission his own tea cup design from a local artist.  This is a man who is serious about his tea.  He has thought more than once about opening a local tea room but Louisville doesn’t seem quite ready for that. Mind you, I drink it, too.  Michel prepares a small thermos for me to take to school every day and I keep a locally-made ceramic teacup (yunomi) on my desk to bring a little serenity to the classroom. 

It took a tsunami and a nuclear disaster to dissuade Michel from his daily consumption of tea harvested from a farm near Kyoto.  After the 2011 Fukushima nuclear catastrophe, it immediately became clear that it was no longer safe to consume anything coming from Japan, despite the denials of government and power company officials.  The reports of contamination as far away as San Francisco are still in the news more than two years later.  So it was back to the computer and more hours/days of research for Michel to find an alternative to keep us from becoming radioactive.  Time well spent, I think.

What kind of tea do we drink now?  Pu-Erh tea from the Yunnan Province in China.  Why did Michel finally settle on pu-ehr?  The health benefits are well-documented and he learned that the leaves harvested from wild-growing tea trees (preferably more than a hundred years old) are the ones to go for.   It isn’t cheap but it’s worth it because one serving of tea leaves usually lasts for 10-15 rounds of steeping.
Pu-ehr is also quite rarefied because not too many Westerners know about it—yet.  It improves with age, like wine or bourbon, attracting investors who put their money in tea futures.  The dried tea leaves come in pressed disks of all sizes. Michel has been so charmed by the wrappers that he saves them. He’s even incorporated them into a number of his paintings. 

At first it was very difficult to determine what and how to order pu-ehr tea.  Needless to say, neither of us can read Chinese and there is an overwhelming abundance of choices on the websites offering pu-ehr for sale.  If you’re interested, take a look at Owner Stephen Shelton is extremely knowledgeable and his website is filled with an impressive amount of information about all aspects of tea. Michel has never been disappointed with anything offered there and Mr. Shelton is extremely helpful.  If you enjoy looking at the work of ceramic artists, check out Monohanako or Tim RowanTim RowanFor kettles, the source is Suzuki Morihisa in Japan

1 comment:

  1. Nice blog article and Janice and I appreciate the endorsement of our online tea business. Love the pictures as well as the content. Lighting and composition is excellent!